Do you ever wake up feeling like you want or need something but you don’t know what? When I wake up I usually have a list of things to do that I prepared the night before. My list generally consists of hour by hour tasks, chores, errands, and goals that I want to accomplish. I seldom get to everything on my list but that’s okay with me. I did not make a list last night, and I woke up at 0400 feeling alone and a bit empty inside. I decided to get out of bed. I put on my robe and slippers and went downstairs to make a cup of coffee. While drinking my coffee, I was in a bit of a trance as I have no recollection of what I was thinking about and as soon the cup was empty I grabbed my purse and left the house.
I had no clue where I was going until an hour later I found myself at one of my favorite childhood spots. Owens Beach at Point Defiance Park. I parked my car and went for a walk in my bathrobe and slippers. The sun was just starting to rise. I did not mind the cool breeze off the water. I walked the sidewalk in a bit of a daze, still unsure as to why I was there. I found a bench and sat to watch the sun’s reflection on the water and then it hit me. I knew why I was there.
It had been 40 years to the day since I lost my mom to Leukemia, and this was the last place I had been with her that was not a hospital. My mom died at 38 years old. I guess I am lucky that she had me at 16 otherwise I might not remember her at all.
Moments before she died, she told me that she would be going home to help her father paint the morning sunrise. I sat on the bench in the cold, sobbing, until I was soaking wet from the rain. How could it have already been 40 years since she left us? I still miss her as if it were yesterday?
Once back home, I rummaged through old photo albums and boxes of photos trying to find her. My efforts were wasted as all I could find were faded polaroids with ghost like figures. I wanted to see the sparkle in her eye as she smiled just one last time. I was denied this wish.
Therapists and friends have talked to me and given me books on the steps of grieving but it is wrong to try to tell someone else how to feel, no matter what anyone has told me about grieving, I just won’t put a time limit on my process.
My grieving process started late as I was the oldest of three and I had to be helpful as there was no time to be sad or show emotion. I needed to be strong and I was strong. I continued to be strong when my step-dad quickly took his life to join her. My mom and my step-dad had been married less than a year when she got her diagnosis and those months were the happiest times in both their lives.
Over the last 40 years I have come up with ways to cope with my pain and guilt. I know I was not the best daughter, I was rebellious and selfish. I liked to do things my way. Mom and I had fights and screaming matches and I am not sure if I ever told her I was sorry. We were both children playing different roles. I try to imagine what it would be like to have had a child a16 years old . Mom was still a child herself. She had dreams, and regrets and she shared them from her hospital bed.
After she left, I was depressed, I had not spent much time with my mom over those past few years. I was busy being a teenager. It wasn’t until a few years passed that I started to realize how little I really knew about my mom.
Days and years went by heck who am I trying to fool? A decade or two or three went by and I still had not dealt with the loss. I often found myself sitting alone on the floor of my closet crying in the dark. I kept rubber bands on my wrists and I would snap them to cause myself a bit more pain.
I felt like I should be punished for not being a better daughter, I had been so selfish, throwing my tantrums because I wanted to do something and she would tell me no, I would go anyway and her and my step dad would go out looking for me sometimes for hours and sometimes for days as I was good at hiding. As I look back now 40 years later all my memories of my mom seem to be about her trying to keep me safe and out of trouble. At the time it seemed like she was just trying to ruin my life.
I try to remind myself each morning when I wake up that I am not my past choices and that as I move forward I need to live for today and tomorrow and not yesterday. I have learned that we can’t keep people safe and that we all need our own reasons for doing or not doing something.
These days I still keep rubber bands on my wrist but they are not there to cause myself pain they are there so I can put my hair up quickly.